Omid Memarian

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Iraq: Results of a Contraversial Election

(This news review is written by my classmate Naira and me. So thanks Naira.)
Fraud in the elections, opposition to the constitution, lack of independence in the justice system, sectarian tension, marginalization of Sunnis by Shiites and corruption are just some of the problems plaguing Iraq these days. Although all the articles reviewed mention corruption and instability, the tone of the article from Al-Jazeera is decidedly more fatalistic. Both the articles from Al Hayat and AlSharq al Awsat criticize the conditions in Iraq today but also recognize the significance of the democratic improvements made there.

Elections in Iraq are the main event determining the future of the country.
Al Hayat reports “annulment of 227 ballot boxes and considering that the cancelled votes do not fundamentally affect the results;” although “security situation and the tense atmosphere contributed to overlook the possibility of repeating the elections in the districts where fraud was reported”.

The media have closely followed the election results since last week but the announced results on Monday did not come as a surprise. “The "Shiite coalition", despite topping the list in the number of votes and seats, did not win the absolute majority (130 seats, with a 138-seat majority, Kurdish coalition- 53 seats and Reconciliation front (Sunnis)- 44 seats). This “situation undoubtedly gives the coalition a secure leading position to form the new government.”
But, there are some strong concerns as well.
Al-Jazeera has pointed out that if the Shiites do not agree to review the constitution, they will boycott participating in the government which could mean a huge political crisis in Iraq. The current constitution makes it easy for Shiites to have a dominant role in government. “Sectarian tension is increasing as the deliberations regarding the formation of the government are going on.” "It is very important that the coming prime minister is acceptable to most Iraqi factions. This will bridge the gaps and re-establish trust among all parties.”

Meanwhile “Al-Hakim continued to reject a number of Sunni demands during his visit to Iraq's Kurdistan earlier this month. “No to repeating the elections and no to amending the constitution," he said”. He is also insisting on adopting federalism in Iraq and has previously called for a self-ruled Shia region in southern Iraq. Another important concern is about the major non-Shia group which “accepted a last-minute agreement in December and participated in the elections after guarantees that the constitution would be reviewed in parliament.

So the constitution is a potential time bomb threatening the integrity of Iraq,
Al-Jazeera writes, creating a future without hope. The trial of Saddam Hussein has highlighted the lack of independence in the justice system in Iraq, according to an article by Alsharq Alawsat. At the same time American prominent daily New York Times reports a big scandal on the high level of corruption in the reconstruction process by American forces in Iraq, which reflects the lack of good governance in the Iraqi political and ecumenical system. But there are some bright points as well which are mentioned by Al Hayat on Tuesday.
While the media in the West and the Middle East focus primarily on bad news,
Al Hayat points out some positive outcomes of the latest election and power struggle in Iraq: “The Iraqi experience once more indicates that everyone has to accept the "democratic process" with its advantages and disadvantages. “Undoubtedly, the possibilities of improvement are open and available provided each side abandon the dreams of total hegemony, nostalgia for the past and the ambitions of division. These results are not sufficient alone to impose a government of national unity; however, the will of the three main parties could be materialized in a government including all the components of the Iraqi people without any exception or marginalization.” Although the Al Hayat and Al Sharq al Awsat articles discuss very serious issues like election fraud, flaws in the judicial system and disunity, the writers are optimistic about Iraq’s prospects. The authors are able to think positively because they are placing the current situation in Iraq in the greater context of Iraqi history in which trials of former political leaders and parliamentary elections were unthinkable.

Democracy is a long process. Iraqis are practicing this process. The present state is not completely desirable but given the situation in many other Arab countries it is not unusual. After decades of Saddam’s tyranny, these are their first steps towards attaining democracy.


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